0 Comments · Wednesday, July 9, 2014
The Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST) says it will fight Hamilton County
Commissioners’ proposed plans to raise either sales or property taxes to
help pay for renovations to Music Hall and Union Terminal.
by Nick Swartsell
25 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:26 AM | Permalink
The fight over pitbulls continues, Central Parkway bike lanes progressing, COAST says no way to tax hike
Long weekends mean lots of news. Let's get caught up.Another incident involving pitbulls this weekend has some in Cincinnati calling for the city to reintroduce a ban on the breed. Over the weekend, a pitbull attacked a Jack Russell Terrier in East Price Hill, which has led its owner and others to demand action. The controversy around the dogs flared up in June when 6-year-old Zainabou Drame was severely injured by two pits in Westwood. Councilman Christopher Smitherman has said he’s working on ways to address the issue in the Law and Public Safety Committee he chairs. He has yet to decide 100 percent what the right course of action is to address the problem, he says, but seems to believe that an outright ban wouldn’t work. He voted to repeal a ban the city once had. Smitherman has said he believes the problem is with irresponsible owners, not just the breed itself.• Here’s some great news — work began today on protected bike lanes on Central Parkway. The first phase of the protected lane will stretch from Elm Street north to Marshall Street. Construction happening now includes striping the new bike-only lanes, putting up new signage, building new bus stops that keep buses and bikes separate and eventually installing plastic poles between the bike lanes and the rest of the road. • Local anti-tax group COAST has raised opposition to Hamilton County Commissioners’ proposed plans to raise either sales or property taxes to help pay for renovations to Music Hall and Union Terminal. The group says the city, not the county, owns the buildings and that it’s unfair for the city to ask county taxpayers to foot the bill for their renovations. COAST supports an alternate idea floated by Commissioner Todd Portune that would raise the money by charging a tax on tickets to events held at the buildings. The group opposes putting the tax increase measure on the ballot so that, you know, the majority of taxpayers could decide for themselves the best way to go about paying for the buildings. At least two of the three county commissioners must approve the tax plan by Aug. 6 for it to go on the ballot.• Filming begins today here in town for Miles Ahead, a film exploring Miles Davis’ reclusive period in the 1970s. Don Cheadle is directing the project, as well as starring as Davis. He chose Cincinnati because it has the architecture and vibe of 1950s and '60s-era Manhattan, which the film flashes back to periodically. Cheadle also cites Ohio tax credits, the city’s film support network and the fact that “this town is a music town,” he told The Enquirer.• Construction began last week on five single-family townhomes in the Pendleton district of Over-the-Rhine. It’s part of a plan to bring suburban-style housing to OTR and the urban core, according to developer Edward Wright of Wright Design. Each of the five houses will have three bedrooms and a two-car garage. Four of the homes are new builds and one is a renovation. All are LEED certified. Five more are planned nearby in the next year. • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul continues to position himself for a 2016 presidential run. As he does so, he’s reaching out to minority voters and becoming more and more blunt about what he sees as the GOP’s big problem. Last week, he put it in the starkest terms yet. “If we’re going to be the white party, we’re going to be the losing party,” he said July 2 at a ceremony in Kentucky honoring the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. Paul has made trips to low-income, predominantly minority communities in Kentucky and other states. But Paul has problems of his own to overcome, including past statements expressing doubt about some elements of the Civil Rights Act and the fact that both he and his father have some racially tinged baggage. Rand will be in Cincinnati July 25 speaking at the National Urban League conference.
by Nick Swartsell
45 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:04 AM | Permalink
Barricades, free speech, and museums up, McDonalds down
It's morning. I've got news. Check it out.Barricades along McMicken Avenue in Over-the-Rhine and Fairview
are working to deter prostitution, Cincinnati Police said yesterday in a
presentation to City Council’s Human Services Committee. The barriers sit in
three locations along the street and were put up April 30 as part of a program
to fight sex work and human trafficking in the area. Other efforts include new
laws making penalties tougher for pimps and johns and releasing the names of
those convicted of soliciting prostitutes.
The stretch of McMicken is known for high levels of
prostitution and other crime. In January, a 24-year-old woman was shot in the
head and killed on the street. Authorities suspect she was involved in the sex
trade. Police say the volume of prostitution in the area has gone down with the
barricades, though they also acknowledge that they’ve seen an uptick in
activity in places like the West End. Residents in West Price Hill have also
reported an increase in prostitution since the barriers went up.
Some residents in the area aren’t convinced the barricades
help and say they make their daily commutes more difficult, though others say
they’ve noticed a difference in the level of crime. The barricades will come
down by the end of the summer.
• Everyone’s favorite proto-tea party group and an anti-abortion
organization got a win yesterday when the Supreme Court ruled that they can
challenge an Ohio law prohibiting false statements in political advertising.
The court ruled both the Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes, or COAST, and the Susan B. Anthony List were harmed by the
Ohio law and could sue the state. In 2010, Democrat Steve Driehaus, then
running for governor, threatened legal action over SBA plans to buy billboards
saying he voted for “tax-payer funded abortions.” SBA cited Driehaus’ support
of the Affordable Care Act as proof of the claim. Though Driehaus dropped the
matter after losing the election, SBA sued, saying their First Amendment rights
were violated. COAST jumped on the suit as well, claiming they did not carry out
plans for similar advertisements due to fear of legal action.
SBA’s assertion against Driehaus was incredibly
questionable — using taxpayer money for abortions is still illegal under the ACA, and abortion
providers must still go to great pains to show they’re not using public money to
administer the procedure — but the larger issue of free speech convinced both liberal
and conservative justices at the Supreme Court. Lower courts originally
dismissed the groups’ suits, but the case will now go back to them to be
• Former Reds slugger and skipper Pete Rose got to manage a baseball team again yesterday,
doing a one-day stint with the Bridgeport Bluefish, a Connecticut team in the
independent Atlantic League. The 73-year-old hasn’t managed a game since his
suspension from major league baseball 25 years ago for gambling. • In other sports news, Team USA won over Ghana to kick off
its bid for the World Cup, but you probably already know that from all the
yelling your neighbors did about it last night. At least that’s how I know
about it. We're number one!
• …Except when it comes to health care. In fact, a new study
by the Commonwealth Fund shows the United States is number 11 when it comes to
our health care system when compared with 10 other developed countries. The
U.S. ranked behind the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Germany,
The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, France and Canada in terms of quality of
healthcare available. We’re number 11! That’s like being number one twice! The
U.S. was legitimately number one in a single category, though: We have the
most expensive health care of all the countries in the study.
• Before you get too sad, consider this: Another study
found there are more museums in the United States than Starbucks and McDonalds
combined. We have about 25,000 of the two chains combined, and more than 35,000
museums. Now if they would just combine the two so I can see some postmodern
art and grab a Big Mac at the same time, or maybe enjoy a smoothie as I check out the Kansas Underground Salt Museum.
by German Lopez
Tea party lands school board seats, death penalty scrutinized, AG campaigns spar over role
Fiscal conservatives and tea party activists won more
seats on local school boards last year, putting them in the awkward
position of supposedly looking out for the school’s best interests while
rejecting property tax levies that could boost schools’ resources and outcomes. As one example, a member of the Coalition
Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) now sits on the board for Kings Schools in Warren County that she once sued for public records.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Sunday
called on Gov. John Kasich to immediately halt the death penalty across
the state, following the botched, 26-minute execution of convicted
killer Dennis McGuire. The execution, the longest since Ohio restarted using
capital punishment again in 1999, utilized a new cocktail of drugs that had
never been tried before in the United States. It’s unclear whether
state officials will use the same drugs for the five other executions
planned for the year.David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for attorney
general, says Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine should stop
defending court-rejected, unconstitutional voting and ballot restrictions. DeWine argues that it’s the attorney general’s job to
defend Ohio and its laws, regardless of his opinion on constitutionality. But
DeWine actually stepped aside and assigned a separate attorney to a case
involving restrictions on “false statements” in political campaigns
because, according to him, the law’s constitutionality is questionable.Martin Luther King Jr. and modern Republicans would likely
stand in opposition on numerous issues, including voting rights, the
death penalty and reproductive rights.A top policy aide for Gov. Kasich says local
governments should share more services. But some municipal officials argue the Kasich
administration is just trying to deflect criticisms regarding local government
funding cuts carried out by his Republican administration and the
Republican-controlled legislature over the past few years.The Justice Department is investigating a former chief
judge of Cincinnati’s federal appeals court for nearly $140,000 in
travel expenses he took during his four and a half years on the bench.Fewer Ohio students need remedial college classes following high school graduation.U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called a fellow Republican an asshole, according to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.Seven out of 10 people will live in cities by 2050, according to Popular Science.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The American Family Association got real mad last week
when it found out Radio Shack is not using the word “Christmas” in its
holiday sales, calling for a boycott of the retailer due to
“censorship.” WORLD -1
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 04:59 PM | Permalink
COAST attorney files lawsuit following board of elections ruling
A lawsuit filed on Oct. 23 asks the Hamilton County Court of Appeals to compel the Hamilton County Board of Elections to scrub UrbanCincy.com owner Randy Simes off the local voter rolls.
The lawsuit was filed less than two weeks after the board
of elections ruled that Simes is eligible to vote in
The case has been mired in politics since it was
first filed to the board of elections. Simes’ supporters claim the legal actions are meant to suppress Simes’ support for the streetcar project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ mayoral campaign. Proponents of the lawsuit argue they’re just trying to uphold the integrity of voting. Attorney Curt
Hartman is spearheading the lawsuit. He regularly represents the Coalition Opposed to
Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group that opposes the streetcar project and Qualls.
The lawsuit claims Simes isn’t legally able to vote in
Cincinnati because he currently resides in South Korea and lived in Chicago
prior to the move overseas.Ohio election law requires a place of residency to vote,
but someone can remain on the voter rolls if he or she intends to return
to the city or state while in another part of the country or overseas.
Simes’ supporters, who the board of elections sided with
on Oct. 14, claim Simes has every intention of returning to Cincinnati
when he’s done with his work in South Korea. Simes’ contract
with his employer, Parsons Brinckerhoff, states he’ll return to
Cincinnati in two years.
Until then, Simes is registered to vote at a condominium owned by his friend and business colleague, Travis Estell.
According to Estell’s testimony to the
board of election, Simes kept a key and sometimes stayed for a week when he came and went from the residence throughout the spring and summer. Simes also has credit card and bank mail sent to the
address, and he attempted to change his registered driver’s license
address to match the residence, Estell said.But Hartman says the evidence, which was gathered largely through Simes’ social media activities, shows Simes was a visitor, not a resident. He cites Estell’s testimony that Simes lived out of a suitcase and didn’t pay rent when he stayed in Cincinnati.Tim Burke, chairman of the board of elections and Hamilton
County Democratic Party, says there’s a reason three out of four members of the
board, including one Republican, agreed Simes should remain on the voter
“The facts that were presented didn’t rise to the legal
standard of clear and convincing evidence to justify depriving the voter
of his right to vote,” Burke says.
Burke likens the arrangement to a Procter & Gamble
employee who spends a year or two overseas but still keeps the right to
vote in Cincinnati. Burke says someone could even
sell his home in Cincinnati and keep his right to vote from
the sold residence.Hartman says the comparison doesn’t work because a Procter & Gamble employee would live in and keep ties to Cincinnati prior to moving overseas. He claims Simes’ decision to register to vote from Chicago in 2012 effectively broke his electoral ties with Cincinnati and Ohio.But the argument could be rendered moot. Burke, who is named as one of the defendants in the
lawsuit, says the legal challenge might not make it to court
because two different people filed the lawsuit to the court of appeals and complaint to the
board of elections. That could render the
lawsuit procedurally defective and lead to a dismissal, according to Burke.The lawsuit currently has no scheduled hearing or judge,
but Hartman says he hopes to expedite hearings in time for the Nov. 5
Local politicians distance themselves from COAST’s bigoted history and hypocritical tactics
1 Comment · Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he
would reject an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a
history of anti-LGBT causes.
by German Lopez
Pension language mostly upheld, Cranley rejects COAST, Ky. group criticizes housing facility
The Ohio Supreme Court upheld most of the controversial ballot language
for Issue 4 — the tea party-backed city charter amendment that would
semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system — but the court also
concluded that the Hamilton County Board of Elections must add language
about how much the city can contribute to the new retirement accounts.
The amendment would require future city employees to contribute to and
manage individual 401k-style retirement accounts, instead of placing
them under the current pension system in which the city pools pension
funds and manages the investments through an independent board. Voters
will make the final decision on the amendment on Nov. 5, although some
already voted early on ballots that included the full controversial
language. CityBeat analyzed the amendment — and how it could reduce benefits for city employees and raise costs for the city — in further detail here.
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he would reject and doesn’t want
an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a history of
anti-LGBT causes. The response came just two days after COAST on Oct. 8
tweeted that it supported — but not endorsed — Cranley and council
candidates Amy Murray, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn for a
“change of direction.” In response, Councilman Chris Seelbach,
Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member, called on all candidates
to reject COAST’s support because the conservative group’s most public
members previously opposed LGBT rights and backed efforts to make it
illegal for the city to deem gays and lesbians a protected class in
anti-discrimination statutes.A historic preservation society in Ludlow, Ky., is attempting to block
a transitional housing facility that provides low-cost housing for
recovering addicts as they get their lives back in order. Even though
the facility’s two buildings aren’t designated as “historic,” the Ludlow
Historic Society wrote in an email that it’s “concerned because we are
striving to maintain and improve our housing stock in Ludlow, and
especially make the city a desirable place for young people to own their
homes and raise their families.” There’s not much information on the
ripple effect transitional housing has on communities, but a 2010 study found residents of transitional housing were achieving significant improvement or total abstinence.Ohio officials are considering rules
that would allow oil and gas drillers to store fracking wastewater in
lagoons the size of football fields then recycle the wastewater for further use.
Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water,
chemicals and sand are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas
reserves, but the technique produces potentially toxic wastewater that
has to be deposited or recycled somewhere. CityBeat covered fracking and the environmental controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
A state senator proposed a bill
that attempts to keep the monthly per-member growth of Medicaid costs at
3 percent or lower, down from the current projections of 4.6 percent. But the bill doesn’t specify how it would reach the savings required and
instead calls on the legislature and state administration to find a
solution. The bill also doesn’t take up the federally funded Medicaid
expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found
would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a
million Ohioans in the next decade.
A national reporting project will track the accessibility of Plan B, or the “morning-after pill,” now that emergency contraception is a court-upheld right for all women of childbearing age.
The death of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man convicted of holding three women captive and raping them for a decade, may have been caused by autoerotic asphyxiation, not suicide.
Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she got a double mastectomy may have inspired more Cincinnati women to seek a cancer screening.
Scientists discovered an exoplanet whose mass is 26 percent water. In comparison, Earth is only 0.023 percent water, by mass, according to Popular Science.
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
by German Lopez
Conservative group has history of anti-LGBT causes
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says he would reject an endorsement from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes
(COAST), a conservative group formed in 1999 with a history of anti-LGBT causes.“I don’t want it. I’m not a member of COAST,” Cranley says.
The response comes just two days after COAST on Oct. 8 tweeted that it supported Cranley and council candidates Amy Murray, Chris Smitherman and Charlie
Winburn for a “change of direction.” The group later claimed the tweets weren’t endorsements, but not before
progressives called on candidates to reject COAST’s support.Councilman Chris Seelbach responded to COAST’s apparent interest in influencing the mayoral and City Council races on his Facebook page: “Regardless of the politics involved, anyone who wants my
support should make it clear: COAST is a hate-driven, fringe
organization that should not be apart (sic) of any conversation on how
to make Cincinnati a better place.”CityBeat couldn’t immediately reach
Murray, Smitherman or Winburn for comment on whether they would accept
COAST's support for their campaigns. But Smitherman, who is president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) when he’s not campaigning, often teams up with COAST on local issues.
Seelbach, who has been a favorite target of COAST, tells CityBeat there’s no doubt the group’s vitriolic opposition is at least partly based on hate.
“Without question, I believe COAST targets me because I’m
gay,” Seelbach says. “In some ways, I’m a symbol of everything that they
hate, which is LGBT progress.”Cranley agrees the group is hateful. He points out that some COAST members have criticized him over the years for supporting LGBT causes, including hate crime legislation in 2003.
In the 1990s, Chris Finney, chief legal crusader for
COAST, authored Article XII, the city charter amendment approved by
voters in 1993 that barred the city from deeming gays a protected class
in anti-discrimination statutes.
In a June 1994 Cincinnati Post article,
Finney said landlords should not be legally required to rent to gay or
lesbian tenants. Finney explained, “Because there may be some who don’t
want their family dining next to a homosexual couple whose actions they
find offensive.” To critics, the remarks seemed fairly similar to
arguments leveled in support of racial segregation in the 1960s.COAST chairman Tom Brinkman and member Mark Miller were also part of Equal Rights Not Special Rights, which defended Article XII in court in 1997.
When City Council passed hate crime legislation protecting
gays and lesbians in 2003, Brinkman criticized the Catholic members of City Council at the time — including Cranley, who sponsored the legislation — for sending “the message that you openly approve of homosexuality.”Back then, Cranley responded, “We have a little something in this
country called the separation of church and state. Mr. Brinkman asked
me to read the Catechism. I ask him to read the U.S. Constitution.”
Around the same time, Seelbach prepared and then helped lead the 2004
campaign that did away with Article XII. For Cincinnati, the repeal of
the city charter amendment, just 11 years after voters approved it,
exemplified the more tolerant, open direction the country was moving in regards to the LGBT community.
But while the country has embraced greater equality for
LGBT individuals, Seelbach says COAST hasn’t done the same. Even though
Seelbach voted against the parking plan that COAST also opposes, the
conservative organization has regularly targeted Seelbach in blog posts
and emails criticizing the plan, which leases the city’s parking meters,
lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.
In March, COAST sent out a doctored image that compared
Seelbach to Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ in the Christian
religion, for approving an emergency clause on the parking plan that
effectively exempted the plan from a voter referendum. Seelbach voted
against the parking plan itself when it came to a vote.
“I don’t believe in running our city by referendums,”
Seelbach says. “What we currently have is a representative democracy. We
elect people that we hold accountable by either re-electing them or
not, and we trust the people that we elect to research the policies and
make informed decisions. I think that’s the best system.”
Most recently, COAST went after Seelbach for his trip to
Washington, D.C., where he received the Harvey Milk Champion of Change
award for his efforts to protect and promote Cincinnati’s LGBT
community. The city paid more than $1,200 for the trip, which COAST
called into question with legal threats. Even though City Solicitor John
Curp, the city’s top lawyer, deemed the allegations frivolous, Seelbach
agreed to reimburse the funds to stave off a lawsuit that could have
cost the city more than $30,000.
At the same time, media outlets, including WCPO and The Cincinnati Enquirer,
have closely covered COAST’s allegations and commonly turned to the
group to get the conservative side of different issues, ranging from the
streetcar project to the pension system. Both media outlets have
characterized COAST as a “government watchdog group,” ignoring the organization’s history of conservative activism and crafting legislation.
The favorable attention might be turning around. The Enquirer recently scrutinized COAST’s lawsuits against the city, which revealed the group, which frames itself as an
anti-tax, anti-spending watchdog, could cost the city more than $500,000
in legal fees. The city solicitor also estimated his office puts the
equivalent of one full-time employee on COAST’s cases, with the typical
city civil attorney making about $65,000 a year, according to The Enquirer.
Seelbach acknowledges the vast differences between the
black and LGBT civil rights movements, but he says a group with a
similarly discriminatory past wouldn’t get the kind of media coverage and
attention COAST does, at least without the proper context.
“If there was a group that had a history of fighting for
segregation, … there is absolutely no way anyone, much less media, would
quote or accept support in any form,” Seelbach says.This story was updated at 5:09 p.m. with more context.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Not too hot, not too cold, just right: A Russian bear
broke into a couple’s Siberian country cottage and instead of eating
them, it devoured an entire pot of borscht. WORLD +1